• Gillian Norton named as St George’s chair after being non-executive director since June 2016
  • Ms Norton has been a council chief executive and led on health issues for the South London Partnership
  • Twenty candidates applied for the role

A new chair has been appointed at St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Gillian Norton, a non-executive director at the trust since June 2016, will take up the role after she was approved by trust governors yesterday.

She was previously chief executive of Richmond council from 1999 to 2016, and chief executive of Wokingham borough council.

Ms Norton has also been lead chief executive for health issues in the South London Partnership, an organisation of local authorities in south west London.

St George’s has experienced a tumultuous 10 months. Last April, chief executive Miles Scott stepped down following regulatory scrutiny of the trust’s sudden financial decline in 2015. A few weeks later, acting chief executive Paula Vasco-Knight was suspended over serious financial allegations. She has since pleaded guilty to fraud.

Sir David Henshaw, who has extensive experience in transforming public sector organisations’ performance, was appointed interim chair to tackle the trust’s operational and financial challenges.

The trust is still facing significant financial and quality challenges. In June 2016, its forecast deficit for 2016-17 was £17.2m. By September the forecast deficit had increased to £55.5m.

In November, the trust was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission and placed in special measures.

Despite the difficulties faced by the trust, it received 20 applications for the role of chair. Four candidates were shortlisted and interviewed on Wednesday by a panel including governors, trust staff and Richard Murley, chair of University College London Hospitals FT.

Ms Norton said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the new chair of St George’s. Whilst there is much to be done to bring the trust to the level of excellence and financial sustainability we want for our patients, and the communities we serve, this is an institution with enormous potential. I look forward to working with staff, governors and all our partners to realise that potential, building on our recent improvements.”

Sir David said: “I am delighted that Gillian is taking on this key leadership position. She brings a wealth of experience from her career in local authorities, as well as at the trust itself. Gillian is a first class appointment to this role, which she has deservedly secured following an external selection process led by our council of governors. I am confident that she will use her expertise and commitment to great effect as chair, and I wish her every success in her new role.”